How To Buy Vintage Clothing: A Complete Guide For Beginners

For old fashioned fans, vintage stores can be one of life’s greatest joys.Often, it’s all about the thrill of the hunt, there are few things as satisfying as digging up a truly incredible (or five) piece from another era.

However, learning how to buy vintage clothing can also be tricky and, frankly, overwhelming. What is the difference between vintage clothing and simply worn clothing?

What parts are worth discovering if you are new to buying pre-owned clothing? To answer these and other questions, we invite  Doris Raymond, who has been buying and selling vintage clothing for more than 30 years at her Los Angeles store, The Way We Wore, a true Mecca for rare finds such as Museum, 1950 Pucci blouses, Chanel suits and Hermes jackets.

As the location is for the most discerning vintage fashion lovers, it’s no surprise that the Doris store has won its own reality show-“LA Frock Stars”-which aired last year on the Smithsonian Channel.

The show was attended by some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, such as  Dita Von Teese.

We have also seen Rihanna’s stylist  picking up items for the Grammy Awards and Raymond pulling items for Lady Gaga to wear on tour.

Even if you’re not in the market, Raymond insists that everyone’s closet could use some vintage goodies to add something special in the wardrobe.

Here are the tips on how to buy vintage clothing like a pro.

First: Know the difference between vintage and parsimony

What sets vintage clothing apart from simply used items? Raymond explains: “You can find great vintage pieces in thrift stores, but you should not find items from thrift stores in a vintage store. Vintage denotes something special-an item that has stood the test of time and has proved to be relevant to any number of reasons-timelessness of style, [quality], historical or cultural importance or interesting provenance. ”

Some Interesting Things to Keep in Mind: Signs that a garment was manufactured before or in the mid-1960s are metal zippers, pressure closures, serrated edges (often referred to as chopped seams), and printed union tags in blue.

Start with a classic

If you are a neophyte when it comes to vintage hunting, it is worth looking for something timeless to start with. “A good first piece of vintage for the beginner is something basic and classic,” says Raymond.

“Maybe a beaded 1950’s cardigan or a little black 1960’s dress. Make it something you can wear over and over again that will not lose your shine right away.”

It’s not the size that matters, but the underwear

Often, with vintage, it is not the size of the piece that is important, but rather the undergarments that actually make the clothes fit properly.

“Calibration standards have changed over the decades, but not as much as underwear,” says Raymond.

“Each era of the 20th century had a distinct silhouette that required changes in the forms of clothing – corsets, ribbons, etc.”

This means that a specific vintage garment may not look the same today without a specific underwear, something you should note before buying.

Know the ages

“Usually the easiest eras to buy would be the closest now. Of course there would be a greater abundance to choose from, “says Raymond.

“The easiest eras to fit into a contemporary wardrobe would be the eras of the second half of the 20th century (from 1960). Older items may not fit well into your personal style. ”

Why  buy from vintage rather than new

A quality vintage garment or accessory can cost as much as a current seam, so why would someone choose a pre-used item rather than something new?

Because it’s probably done better. “The general rule, especially for high-end design parts, is that the older the part, the higher the quality,” explains Raymond.

“There are usually more handiwork, more attention to detail and a trend towards durability that you do not see much more in contemporary fashion.”

Not to mention that with a vintage designer you probably will not be able to identify anybody else on the street wearing the same clothes as you.

Do your research, if you are willing to spend

That said, Raymond warns against ostentation without doing a good deal of research in the first place. “I do not recommend investing a great deal of money into anything that you can buy on a whim. Learn how to identify condition problems, what ages are good for you and how much collectible an item is before you buy, “Raymond advises.

“Vintage fashion as an investment is best left to the truly educated. It is important to know how to recognize and identify the signs that can make an item valuable and collectible. You should be well versed in haute couture, designers and detail. ”

To educate yourself, talk to people who run several high-end vintage stores or look for old local merchants.

Adapt it

If you fell in love with something that does not fit, remember that vintage items can always be tailored to make them perfect for you.

“Do not be afraid to invest a little money to have it properly adjusted to your body. If you invest 25 or 30 reais to shorten the sleeves or gather your waist a little, so that it does not get bloated, it can make a big difference and leave it as if it were tailor-made, “says Raymond.

That being said, there are items from another era that simply can not be changed, so it pays to be aware of the proportions of your body.

No matter how much you love the fabric of a coat or the curtain of a dress, whether they are too short or long, the waist may not fit right, Raymond points out.

Feel the fabric

You may fall in love with a garment with a beautiful print or a beaded dress, but make sure the fabric is in good condition.

“I always like to really look and touch clothes, to make sure that there is still life in them. Vintage pieces often become brittle and dry and break. There’s nothing more poignant than investing some money into something and having it crumble in you. ”

If a garment looks like it is cracking, pulling, falling apart, or fading, it is probably wise to leave it behind.

Say no to plastic

We are all guilty of leaving our clothes inside those dry cleaning bags, but Raymond says it can be especially damaging to vintage pieces.

“Never store your things in plastic! Because plastic, if you think about it, does not allow a garment to breathe. Therefore, if all the moisture in the air accumulates, it can cause deterioration or even mold. “